The first week of the NFL season always has some surprises and that’s what’s so fun about it…you never do know who will shine that wasn’t supposed to, or who flopped that was supposed to fly. Obviously, the Panthers flopped when they should have at least roared once. So I’m in the hole so far 0-2 when you count the Wednesday game. Not good, but I did have a couple of calls I’m proud of. At least give me credit for sticking my neck out on a few games…it’s easy to say all the favorites will win but I tried to pick who I truly thought would win for whatever reason.
I’ll grade my record, then separate out those “quirk” games I called and see how I did there as well.
Let’s take a look at what I thought vs. what actually happened in week one:
–> Indianapolis at Chicago: Bears by 4
FINAL SCORE: Bears 41, Colts 21 – Bears by 20
Comments: Indy showed they have some firepower on offense, unlike game one of last season. Luck appears to be the Real Deal, but the Colts (rightly) concentrated on revamping the offense to give Luck some tools (unlike the Dolphins’ approach) to work with. It showed, as the Bears torched the Colts’ secondary as it will take time for Vontae Davis, recently acquired from the Dolphins, to learn the Colts’ defense. I just figured the Colts might surprise the Bears, but Lovie Smith had none of that.
–> Philadelphia at Cleveland: Eagles by 11
FINAL SCORE: Eagles 17, Browns 16 – Eagles by 1
Comments: Cleveland still is finding ways to lose. Brandon Weeden had 3 INTs (as many QBs had 3+ INT outings) but he’s a rookie in his first start. Vick had 4 INTs, should’ve had five, and should have lost the game for them. He got a reprieve on the 5th would-be INT and delivered the game-winning toss at the end. While I’m not surprised the Cleveland defense helped hold the score down somewhat, I AM surprised in Vick’s poor outing.
–> St. Louis at Detroit: Rams by 7
FINAL SCORE: Lions 27, Rams 23 – Lions by 4
Comments: This “upset special” very nearly happened, and was close the entire game with the Rams ahead until the very end. Cortland Finnegan had a pick-6 while keeping Megatron from finding the end zone, despite his 111 yards receiving. Anyone who saw this game or the highlights should be able to tell why I thought the Rams had a good chance at winning this game. They just couldn’t finish.
–> Miami at Houston: Texans by 24
FINAL SCORE: Texans 30, Dolphins 10 – Texans by 20
Comments: I was pretty close in calling the spread, but it wasn’t that hard. Houston has the NFL’s best defense from last season and the Dolphins have been struggling on both sides of the ball, starting a rookie QB, lacking in WR targets. They got their lone TD on a long punt return and have a lot of work in front of them.
–> Atlanta at Kansas City: Falcons by 9
FINAL SCORE: Falcons 40, Chiefs 14 – Falcons by 26
Comments: I would have said the Falcons would win by 20-ish, but history wasn’t on their side, having lost the last 2 at Arrowhead. I DID know the Chiefs’ D is suspect and that the Falcons bristle with weapons on offense and Julio Jones has a full season under his belt, ready to break out. He did, for 2 TD receptions in this one.
–> Jacksonville at Minnesota: Vikings by 1
FINAL SCORE: Vikings 26, Jaguars 23 (OT) – Vikings by 3
Comments: This one, I had figured out. I thought A.P. would be more of a factor than MJD, and he had 2 TDs of his own coming off a torn knee in January. The guy is phenomenal. I thought with Gabbert’s nice preseason and the Vikings’ porous pass defense, he could get some things going, and he did. In the end, I thought the home field advantage would be the difference for Minnesota. And it was.
–> Washington at New Orleans: Saints by 17
FINAL SCORE: Redskins 40, Saints 32 – Redskins by 8
Comments: I don’t feel TOO bad about blowing this one – the Redskins surprised everyone…except themselves. With the Saints opening at home, their “us-against-the-world” unification from the “Bountygate” scandal, AND the uplifting news that the players’ suspensions had been lifted, I thought they would come out like gangbusters. It was RG3 and the Redskins that looked like the veteran team, however, as they led the entire game. Kudos to Mike Shanahan and “I told you so’s” to those who thought not having Sean Peyton around wouldn’t be a big deal. I just had thought all the other good news would really juice up the Saints, but their defense didn’t show up. Those forfeited draft picks really kept them from doing much to help that side.
–> Buffalo vs. New York Jets: Jets by 4
FINAL SCORE: Jets 48, Bills 28 – Jets by 20
Comments: I got the right team here, but the Jets surprised everyone…INCLUDING themselves. And the score wasn’t even THAT close, since the Jets had a 41-7 lead at one point. It’s quite atypical of a Sparano-coached offense to run up the score, but they did. Wait another week or two to find out if it was the Jets’ O that’s so good or the Bills’ D that’s so bad – or a confluence of both.
–> New England at Tennessee: Pats by 22
FINAL SCORE: Pats 34, Titans 13 – Pats by 21
Comments: The score and prediction says it all. This game result should have surprised nobody.
–> Seattle at Arizona: Seahwaks by 20
FINAL SCORE: Cardinals 20, Seahawks 16 Cardinals by 4
Comments: This one surprised everyone…except Kevin Kolb. NOBODY could’ve predicted that starting QB John Skelton would go down and the much-maligned Kevin Kolb would be the game’s hero. Seattle’s rookie QB, Russell Wilson, failed to reach 100 yards passing but the Cards’ strength is their defense. The Seahawks also have a good defense, thus the low-scoring contest.
–> San Francisco at Green Bay: 49′ers by 3
FINAL SCORE: 49′ers 30, Packers 22 – 49′ers by 8
Comments: This call is the one I’m most proud of. Gotta admit, I had it NAILED when nearly everyone had the Packers winning at home. The Niners and Ravens will meet in the Super Bowl, and the Packers aren’t the invincible team that again – nearly everybody – seems to think they are. They couldn’t stop the run and that opened up the passing lanes for Alex Smith, the guy the Niners chose #1 overall in 2005…over Aaron Rodgers.
–> Carolina at Tampa Bay: Panthers by 13
FINAL SCORE: Buccaneers 16, Panthers 10 – Buccaneers by 6
Comments: In retrospect, not really all that surprising. Cam Newton had an inconsistent preseason and the Bucs were an unknown quantity with all the changes they made in the offseason…both with the roster and coaches. Meanwhile, the Panthers inexplicably abandoned the run and put everything on Newton’s young shoulders. The Panthers were outplayed and outcoached.
–> Pittsburgh at Denver: Broncos by 4
FINAL SCORE: Broncos 31, Steelers 19 – Broncos by 12
Comments: This would have been a 5-point victory in a closely-fought game except for Big Ben throwing a pick-6 in the last 4 minutes of the game when trying to lead them down the field for a go-ahead TD. With injuries at RB and a ferocious Broncos pass rush, Ben never could get into a good rhythm. Manning looked like the Manning of old, but it IS the Steelers’ defense he was facing so I knew it should be close…and it really was.
–> Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ravens by 16
FINAL SCORE: Ravens 44, bengals 13 – Ravens by 31
Comments: I had said that I am not a believer in the Bengals making another playoff push this season. Last season, they didn’t beat ANY team with a winning record, played an easier schedule, and went 0-4 against divisional rivals Steelers and Ravens. I also said the Bengals would have to beat them once before I become a believer. A 31-point loss has probably changed the minds of many of those that WERE believers and Cincy will be lucky to finish .500 this year.
–> San Diego at Oakland: Chargers by 21
FINAL SCORE: Chargers 22, Raiders 14 – Chargers by 8
Comments: This game was only close in the first quarter and the score could have been MUCH MUCH worse. Chargers’ kicker Nate Kaeding had 5 FGs with 3 of them under 30 yards. The Chargers’ special teams blocked 2 punts and blew up another when the Raiders’ long-snapper rolled the snap to Shane Lechler on a third. It was a complete disaster for the Raiders’ special teams but the Chargers didn’t need to get TDs off all those miscues. They won easily anyway.
So, how did I do? Well, I had the Giants beating the Cowboys, so I started 0-1.
Tallying things up, I went 11-5 on calling wins and losses. Not too bad, really, but not spectacular.
“Upset specials” – I was wrong about the Rams over the Lions, but as I said, the game was very close and the Rams held the lead through most of it. Although I did pick the wrong team, I did know it would be a much closer game than most thought. 0-1 so far.
San Francisco at Green Bay – This one I AM proud of. Too many people are seduced by a “vaunted” passing attack but fail to realize that few teams go through an entire season hitting on all cylinders, and that’s often due to a stiff defense. Ask the Pats about that from the last Super Bowl. The Niners are the deepest and most fundamentally sound team in the NFL with no real glaring weaknesses anywhere. The Packers’ defense set multi-decade records for yards given up and they don’t even try to run the ball that much. The Niners’ balance and discipline was what I thought would carry them to a victory, and that’s exactly how it went.
1-1 in upsets isn’t a bad record: First, you have to know which games are setup for the underdog to play well and secondly, you have to actually have the guts to put it out there for everyone to see.
11-5 in calling games with a 1-1 record for upsets. All in all, and considering how difficult it is to call week-one games, not a bad start at all.
Hey, it would be boring if I just said all the favorites will win, right?